Basic Japanese Math

By Donnie | Articles

I was sitting next to one of my Japanese coworkers today and we were talking about ropeways, cable cars, and just some differences between English and Japanese. For some reason or another, I was flipping through a Japanese textbook of mine, and tucked away index were some Japanese notes I had scribbled to myself. On this paper, I had written down some things I wanted to know how to say in Japanese. One of these things was a basic that I still wasn’t do: say basic math functions in Japanese.

Since I had already started a fun little conversation with the Japanese teacher next to me, I decided to ask the teacher some basic math questions. It ended up being a great idea, because it transformed from a basic Q & A into a mini language exchange. This teacher was just as interested in learning how to say these functions in English as I was about learning them in Japanese. We both pulled out our notebooks and pencils, and the learning process began.

The great thing about having this conversation with my fellow teacher, was that it answered a question that I have been meaning to ask for weeks now. Ever wondered how to say equations in Japanese? Well, I did, and when one of my students put me on the spot about a month ago, I honestly didn’t know how to explain even the most basic of equations in Japanese. It’s really basic stuff, but easy to overlook; I guess when you go to a store or even to a bank, nobody’s going to say “Hey you! Quick, read this equation.”

Today, let’s go through some basic math together. Yes, I know the problems are really easy, but there is a little twist is I’m going to give you today. I’m going to tell you how to read each of these equations in Japanese:

Here are the four basic mathematical operations 加減乗除, kagenjojo or かげんじょうじょう, in Japanese

1. ADDITION: Tasu (足す)

2. SUBTRACTION: Hiku (ひく or 引く)

3. MULTIPLICATION: Kakeru (掛ける or かける)

**One teacher was telling me that for “kakeru”
we often just use the hiragana, and not the kanji as much.**

4. DIVISION: Waru (割る or わる)

Let’s start first with addition. The addition symbol in Japanese is read as tasu and the equals sign is read as wa. Here are three basic addition examples:

1 + 1 = 2
Ichi tasu ichi wa ni

5 + 8 = 13
Go tasu hachi wa jusan

75 + 65 = 140
Nanajugo tasu rokujugo wa hyaku yon ju

When you subtract, you use the word “hiku” to say the equation.
Next we’ll look at three subraction examples:

5 – 3 = 2
go hiku san wa ni

9 – 1 = 8
Kyu hiku ichi wa hachi

114 – 15 = 99
Hyakujuyon hiku jugo wa kyujukyu

Now for division. We’ll use the word waru to say “divided by.”
Let’s look at three division examples.

2 ÷ 2 = 1
Ni waru ni wa ichi

42 ÷ 7 = 6
Yon jyu ni waru nana wa roku

3000 ÷ 3 = 1000
Sanzen waru 3 wa sen

Last but not least we’ll use the term kakeru for multiplication.
Here are three multiplication examples for you to practice:

4 x 5 = 20
Yon kakeru go wa nijyu

9 x 9 = 81
Kyu kakeru kyu wa hachijyu ici.

1000 x 100 = 100000
Sen kakeru hyaku wa juman

That wraps up our brief arithmetic lesson for today. I hope you got something useful out of it.

Happy number crunchin’!

Donald Ash

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